Orientation Week: Part 1

Orientation Week: Part 1

After a week full of orientation activities, I feel like I have been living in Thailand for much longer than I actually have. I have already met so many wonderful people, and I go to bed at night with zero thoughts keeping me awake. It is such a peaceful, nonjudgmental place to be in, and I’m just trying to remain open to all of the possibilities that lay ahead.

Our first day in Hua Hin was all about the preliminaries. We had breakfast at the hotel in Bangkok before heading out around 8:30am. The car ride was over 3 hours long, and we were hardly given any time to unpack before we were sent off to the mall to get supplies for our rooms. I experienced my first Tesco, and it was magical. We got lunch, and after unpacking our stuff in our accomodation, we had to attend the Rules and Regulations lecture with Jaco and John. Jaco is probably one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met, and he has managed to reach a place in his life where he genuinely loves himself and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks or says about it. I think that’s pretty amazing. He spent most of the lecture giving us advice about the nightlife in Thailand, including lady-boys, and to stay safe under all circumstances. Since Hua Hin will be our home for a full month, it is important that we know the do’s and don’ts of this particular city, and after hearing from Jaco, it sounds like Hua Hin has much more to offer than I could have expected.

Our long day in the classroom made us veryyyyy hungry, so I went with the girls from my house to explore some of our neighborhood streets. We were pleasantly surprised when we walked into what looked like a fancy restaurant/club from the outside and found out it was an entire marketplace! It reminded us of a carnival, because there was a ferris wheel at the end of the street and lots of different types of food. There were also several options for clothing and other supplies, so it’s nice to know that we have a place like that basically across the street from our house. I ordered the pork dumplings, and followed up with a chocolate covered banana – delicious! I will definitely be visiting that marketplace at least a few more times before we move on from Hua Hin. They even had a burger place, so if I get food nostalgia any time soon, I’ll know where to go!

We had to be up early on Tuesday, leaving our accommodation at 7am in order to be at the pineapple farm by 8am. We learned that pineapples can grow directly from the ground in rows, and we were given fresh samples. It was easily the best pineapple I have ever had in my life, which led me to buy a bag of pineapple slices to eat at lunch. After walking around the farm for an hour, we headed to Hutsadin Elephant Sanctuary, where I met some gentle giants. We were given a bunch of pineapples from the farm that didn’t quite meet the standards for selling in stores, and we brought them with us to feed to the elephants. It was so fun watching them wrap their trunks around the pineapples and eat them straight out of our hands. There was one elephant that preferred extra soft pineapples, and her method of finding them showed how truly smart elephants are: she would drop each pineapple to the ground, and before eating it, she would step directly on it until some of the juice came out. At that point, she could get a better grasp of the consistency in the middle, and she only chose the ripest ones. I got a hug from the baby elephant (her name is Songkrun), and my dreams came true. She was so expressive with her eyes in each picture that we took with her, and it made me want to hang out with her all day. I also got a picture with one of the larger elephants, and the difference in size is pretty outstanding. Songkrun has a lot of growing up to do, and she’s still so much bigger than any of us!

After eating lunch and saying goodbye to the elephants, we headed over to the Artist Village, where we browsed a bunch of really unique paintings and sculptures before learning how to do henna on ourselves. Mine faded within a few hours, but a lot of people in our group had much better luck. At that point, it seemed like we had been out all day, but it wasn’t even 1pm yet. I don’t know if it’s the heat or the fact that we consistently get up early for our excursions in Thailand, but I feel like time moves slower here. I have already come to appreciate this lifestyle, because the structure of their day-to-day lives isn’t so rigid, which promotes a much less stressful environment. We got picked up from the sanctuary and headed to the school, where we learned about Thai Culture and Politics for three hours. It was probably one of the most interesting classes I’ve ever sat through, because we were covering so much ground about a culture I have never been a part of. From there, we finally managed to make it to the beach, where we watched the sunrise while swimming in the ocean.

Wednesday was surprisingly therapeutic, both in the classroom and outside of it. We started our day by doing a Teacher Workshop with Jaco, and no one really knew what to expect. He told us all about what brought him to Thailand (from South Africa) in the first place, what encouraged him to stay for the past several years, and all of the struggles in between. Then, he invited the whole class to do the same, and everyone’s stories had me on the edge of my seat/very in tune with my emotions. The purpose of the exercise was to prove that we all came to Thailand for a specific reason, and we all have baggage that we’re either running from or tackling from a distance. I didn’t get a chance to share my story, but we were told that we will continue the exercise sometime next week. By the end of that session, I felt like I had just gotten out of group therapy, and it was refreshing to feel so comfortable/close to these people whom I had known for less than a week. After lunch, we experienced Muay Thai, and it was definitely the highlight of the day for me. We learned a bunch of different punches and kicks, and then each of us practiced individually with a trainer. It was so fun, and it was a great source of stress release for a lot of us after that intense session with Jaco. I am hoping to do some yoga in the studio near our accommodation during the month, and now I may have to add some more Muay Thai into my schedule. I miss working out regularly, but I know that it will all come into place when we get a little bit more settled in Hua Hin. So far, so good! (:

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